The Hopman Cup saw action beginning Jan. 3 with a clash between the French and the minnows Chinese Taipei; and, as expected, it was the French who drew the first blood.
But the session that was perhaps more interesting and much awaited was the one to be played on Sunday, the fourth—the match between the Russians and the Italians.
This was not due to some long-lost rivalry renewed or anything. It was interesting for just one, plain reason: It was the first time the Safin (or Safina?) siblings were actually going to pair for an event.
The singles on one side, it was the doubles that was eagerly anticipated. Will they play in tandem? How will they team up? Lots of questions quelled just when the match started.
Marat Safin and Dinara Safina are the fifth sibling team to feature in the Hopman Cup after big names like Emilio and Arantxa Sanchez (Spain) and Wayne and Cara Black (Zimbabwe) to mention some.
The brother-sister duo won their respective single matches is straight sets and if they would have won the doubles as well they would have 110 percent entered the finals.
The first two games was disastrous for both teams as each had their game broken. Thereafter though not exactly smooth sailing, the two teams cruised along. Surprisingly it was the Italians who had their chance of taking the first set which unfortunately they ended up squandering.
And, ultimately, even though the Russians were pretty mediocre—especially Safin—they wrestled the first set in the 10th game breaking the Italians in their serve.
The second set was not very unlike the first though the Italians appeared to be more domineering and strong. Games broken back and forth, the pendulum was in full swing with the match that could go either way.
But the tall and towering pair were literally ambushed by the Italians and surprisingly neither Safin nor Safina offered a least bit of resistance. It was almost as if they gave the match away in the end leaving the Italians still in the hunt for a berth in the final.
Most specifically, Safin who appeared to be unraveling. He made mistakes, committed errors on shots that he generally is good at and blatantly put; it was a very below par performance from Safin. Even he seemed to be frustrated with his shot selection time and again.
And thus finally in spite of not being able to post victories in the singles against the Russians, Pennetta and Bolleli managed to redeem themselves in the doubles as the final score read, 4-6, 7-6,7-6.
And as far as the Russian siblings are concerned, I hope that they play better in the next mixed doubles. The Chinese Taipei team maybe a weak opposition in singles but they can definitely give a run for money in the doubles as demonstrated against the French. Its not going to be an easy sailing.